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Harding Distinguished Postgraduate Scholars Programme


Claire Marie Guimond


Department of Earth Sciences, St Catharine's College

PhD thesis: Inside-Out Diversity of Rocky Planets

Research interests
1. The variability of rocky exoplanets
2. How planets exchange matter between their interiors and atmospheres
3. Cosmochemistry of exoplanetary systems
4. Models of planetary geophysics


My PhD focuses on how to predict the "Earth-likeness" of planets orbiting distant stars. Space telescopes such as the Kepler mission have revealed the most common type of known planet to be larger than Earth, but smaller than Neptune. Because our own solar system has no planets in this regime, the nature of these ubiquitous newfound exoplanets is a mystery. That is, the physics governing Earth's mantle and plate behaviour won't necessarily scale up for more massive planets. Earth is covered by deep ocean basins and mountainous continental crust, in particular; I am researching how the propensity to produce such variable topography changes with planet mass. This is important because mountains raise up fresh rock from deep within the planet. The weathering of this material fuels the biogeochemical cycles that support all life on Earth. Without dynamic topography, it is unlikely that an exoplanet could be habitable.


Who or what inspired you to pursue your research interests?

I was inspired to pursue my research interests by my dear friends whom I've seen survive through their first years of postgrad. I don't think that academia has a problem with engaging girls in science—it just has a problem with keeping them, when we are so often forced to prove our commitment and passion, rather than having them be assumed by default. I used to think that passion for one's work was the most important thing in a PhD. Passion isn't even on the list. It's solidarity that will get you through.